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Biden’s statement that the First Step Act was an add-on to a bill passed under Obama

“The bill he talks about is a bill that in my — our administration, we passed. We passed that bill that you added onto. That’s the bill, in fact, you passed.”

— Former vice president Joe Biden to Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.)

Biden appeared to claim that the First Step Act, signed into law by Donald Trump in 2018, was merely an add-on to a bill passed during the Obama administration. The law was a bipartisan project, led by senators such as Booker, which overhauled federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws as well as some aspects of the federal prison system. It was intended to address problems identified in the 1994 crime bill signed by President Bill Clinton and long championed by then-Sen. Biden as the “Biden Crime bill.”

Booker looked at Biden with disbelief, and it’s easy to see why. A Biden aide said he was referring to a 2010 law passed under President Barack Obama that addressed the “100-1” rule, so named because it required a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking in 500 grams of powder cocaine or five grams of crack. The 2010 law narrowed it to 18-1, and the First Step Act made it retroactive.

But the First Step Act was a much broader piece of legislation — far more than an add-on to the 2010 law.

Fact-checking the second Democratic debate
Democratic 2020 presidential candidates (L-R) Sen. Michael F. Bennet (Colo.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio pose together before the start of the second night of the second 2020 presidential Democratic candidates debate in Detroit, Wednesday. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Twenty candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination are again taking the stage — 19 who were on the stage during last month’s debate and one, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who was seen by debate-watchers for the first time Tuesday. The debate, hosted by CNN, began airing at 8 p.m. Eastern; the Fact Checker is writing on the candidates’ claims here.

Here’s what the Fact Checker found during the first debate.